Friends, I have been away on a mission trip to Belize. It has been an eventful 10 days for me. I will provide a personal update in a couple of days. For now, I would like to offer some observations about Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States.
Certainly, as a Wesleyan protestant, there are a number of theological matters upon which the Pope and I would not agree. There is no mistaking one fact, though. There is no other Christian leader in the world that garners as much attention as Francis. For the following reasons I am glad that he has gained such worldwide notoriety.
- His simplicity – From driving a Fiat, to taking his own glasses to be repaired, the Pope is a model of the unostentatious lifestyle that Jesus lived.
- His humanity – Pope Francis’ encounter with John Boehner, Speaker of the House, is an example of his transparency. Boehner emotionally recalled when he and the Pope found themselves alone during the visit Thursday - "The Pope puts his arm around me and kind of pulls me to him and says please pray for me. Who am I to pray for the Pope? But I did." Boehner also said that the Pope’s visit was the crystallizing moment in his decision to step down as Speaker of the House.
- His incarnational style – Often ignoring security concerns the Pope will physically touch the sick, the broken and lonely. As Christians, our Lord gave us the example of incarnational living.
- His servant heart - Francis went to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. He told the inmates: This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation, which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation that benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community.
- His concern for the earth – The Pope is deeply concerned with the environment. Surprisingly, he has done more to get people talking about global environmental concerns than anyone else in decades.
- His compassion - He illustrates compassion in his own words: “ ‘Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’ Here, in four words, is a spiritual and pastoral program of life. The love of Christ, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, enables us to live like this, to be like this: as persons always ready to forgive: always ready to trust, because we are full of faith in God; always ready to inspire hope, because we ourselves are full of hope in God; persons ready to bear patiently every situation and each of our brothers and sisters, in union with Christ, who bore with love the burden of our sins.”
- His Trinitarian God - Without belittling anyone for what they believe or don’t believe, Pope Francis lives a life of faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He embraces the fundamental truth that reality is grounded in relationship, because a relational God has created reality.
Photo credit: CNS Photo/Paul Haring